Andrew M. Greeley





Forge, Apr 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Chuck O’Malley is about to turn 50, and he feels like a failure. No matter how many times his worried wife Rosemarie tells him how successful he is, it doesn’t do any good – especially since all the while she is fondly thinking he is a sad mope. This multi-talented man, with his many successes, sees himself as a fraud. The only thing that can make him happy for a short time is making love with his wife. It will take the reader a while to discover and be impressed by all Chuck has accomplished in his life.

We first meet Chuck and Rosemarie in Rome at the election of the new pope, who will be John Paul I. Chuck has been invited as official photographer. Chuck and Rosemarie, both of whom tell the story from their own viewpoint, have issues and a disillusioning past with the previous papacy. There are two double threads to SECOND SPRING: Chuck and Rosemarie’s two viewpoints, and the two stories of their marriage and their involvement in the world. Surrounding these are the doings of the O’Malley family: affable, unpredictable, and above all loving.

Author Andrew Greeley is a celibate priest who perhaps over-idealizes women and the family, but it works in his books. About two thirds of his readership is women. Many of those are probably attracted by his kindhearted matriarchal families and the deep respect his heroes have for their wives. Personally, if I knuckled under to my spouse as often as Chuck does to his – who calls him Chucky Ducky in public! – I would feel like a fraud and a failure, too. The author’s answer to Chuck’s problem is different from mine (and less practical), but enough people like Greeley’s approach to make him a regular best seller.

There has been much controversy about a Catholic priest writing sex scenes. As the author has one of his characters say in SECOND SPRING: "How clever of God to arrange such delights." He also debunks the notion that middle aged people can’t enjoy sex. No middle aged couple, reading this, could possibly feel guilty about taking enthusiastic pleasure in one of God’s gifts. Father Greeley has successfully put on his pastoral counseling hat.

Greeley’s portrayal of the O’Malley family is so heartwarming and uplifting that it forms the essence of SECOND SPRING, but my favorite parts are the descriptions of Chuck’s instinct for portrait photography. These passages were written by someone who is a student of faces, without a doubt, and I found it inspiring to read. The character readings of the portraits show the author as a man of intuitive understanding.

Father Greeley has serious purposes, lightly and engagingly expressed. He says on his website that his constant themes are "grace and redemption." In his books we see the author as a humanist and an empathetic human being, qualities that, in other people, may not always appear together. He is an idealist whose concern about misery in the world and corruption in the Catholic Church have made him powerful enemies, and SECOND SPRING does deal with reform issues in the Church. However, this is done without spoiling the mood. A balanced humanism expresses itself in people we can dance, smile, and play music with, as well as admire.

May 2003 Review Originally Published on WOR


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